Not having taken any previous interest in the Campaign for a Marxist Party, my eyes were suddenly drawn to the polemical letters page in last weeks paper (June 7).
The CMP were dancing around naked in the woods under a full moon? I almost filled out an application form before I realised that Dave Spencers description was a piece of sarcasm.
For gods sake, dont get peoples hopes up that something exciting is happening on the left. I cant stand the disappointment.
In his article, End bureaucratic centralism, Mike Macnair once again outlines what he considers the political basis of a Marxist party to be (June 7).
Quite rightly, he includes commitment to working class political independence as a core principle. But, bizarrely, he then goes on to include the Socialist Workers Party in the list of organisations he thinks should be in an organisation uniting all Marxists.
How exactly does the SWP qualify as having a commitment to working class political independence, given its popular frontist Respect project?
Fiona Harrington, in defending James Connollys revolutionary syndicalism, writes that revolutionary vanguard parties have not been spectacularly successful in bringing about such a desirable outcome anywhere at all thus far (Letters, May 31).
Well, the Russian Revolution was a pretty impressive achievement in its day and one yet to be equalled by revolutionary syndicalism. Although its certainly a long time between drinks, in terms of the success of a revolutionary party, can Fiona indicate where revolutionary syndicalism has overthrown capitalism or even seriously challenged it?
The tragedy of Ireland was that for much of a generation there was mass, militant struggle in the country, but the result was the counterrevolution of 1922-23. Neither revolutionary nationalism nor revolutionary syndicalism - and I have substantial sympathy for both in the Irish context - proved adequate.
Fiona quotes Connolly: The development of the fighting spirit is of more importance than the creation of the theoretically perfect organisation; indeed, the most theoretically perfect organisation may, because of its very perfection and vastness, be of the greatest possible danger to the revolutionary movement if it tends, or is used, to repress and curb the spirit of comradeship in the rank and file.
I doubt there is a serious partisan of the need for a vanguard party - a real vanguard party, that is - who would disagree with Connolly on this. I certainly dont. However, it is scarcely an argument against a revolutionary vanguard per se: it is an argument for an organisation that facilitates revolutionary creativity and fighting spirit - ie, a real vanguard party. The fact that the far left today is littered with sects is a good reason why we should study and learn from Connolly.
However, we also need to recognise the missing factor in Ireland pretty much ever since the United Irish movement. For the bulk of the time since Tones movement, there has not been a mass revolutionary vanguard organisation and certainly not one that could meet the challenges posed by imperialist domination and native capitalism. Without such a movement, even the most momentous struggles in Ireland have been, and will continue to be, beaten.
In his article, Legitimating racism (May 31), David Landau states that open borders will not be easy and there are tactical problems. For example, the forces in a united front against fascism are unlikely to be agreed on the abolition of immigration controls and it would be wrong to argue for this to be a precondition for involvement in such a campaign.
David writes as though open borders can be realised as a reform within the constraints of the capitalist system. Open borders await the realisation of socialism, for capitalism is based upon the division of the world into nation-states. In fact, nations represent nothing more than the international division of labour. While communists must staunchly oppose the witch-hunting of undocumented immigrants and call for full citizenship rights for such landed persons, calling for open borders within the constraints of the capitalist system - which pits worker against worker through job competition in the labour market - will serve only to exacerbate national tensions while doing nothing to alleviate the plight of those workers who flee to other countries in search of better work opportunities.
There are no Band Aids to patch up the inequities that are basic to the capitalist system. Indeed, there exist today absolutely no basic social questions that can be addressed without bringing up the necessity of overthrowing capitalism. To posture otherwise is to mislead the international working class as to its social responsibility to overthrow the capitalist system on a worldwide scale. There no longer exists a personal solution to widespread unemployment, underemployment and poverty. The question must be addressed at home, as Mexican workers are beginning to realise.
Socialist revolution is a historic obligation. History conscripts its servants.
I was surprised that your article on Jon Cruddas missed out his membership of the pressure group, Compass (Browns left cover, June 7). Compass campaigns under the slogan Direction for the democratic left and it is backing Cruddas for the deputy leadership of Labour.
When you know a bit more about Compass and its policies, Cruddas looks like a much more convincing left candidate. For instance, a large part of the Compass output, in terms of articles, booklets and think pieces, is about mounting a serious challenge to inequality and how the class structure constricts opportunities. Other publications advocate a greater role for workplace democracy, as well as more democracy in the state.
Revolutionary? No. But its a lot more radical than most other options available. Socialists need to be more positive about Cruddas and more optimistic about Labour!
In asserting that the modernist architectural project failed, James Turley is regurgitating tired postmodernist cliché (Letters, June 7). Of course, if an examination of modernist housing is constrained to a discussion of architecturally bland and structurally unsound high-rise slabs erected during the 1960s, there is little argument. To say the least, such constructions were a pale reflection of those aesthetic ideals and structural concepts established by the Bauhaus and subsequent architectural movements and practitioners.
But Mr Turleys assertions extend well beyond these uncontentious examples to include the modernist project as a whole. I would ask him whether he has ever spoken to residents of Goldfingers Trellick Tower, next to Paddington station, Neave Browns social housing scheme in Dartmouth Park, north London, or Le Corbusiers Unité dHabitation in Marseille, to elicit their responses to living in structures such as these? If he did, he would find the postmodernist mythology of failed modernism has collapsed, as such residencies are highly admired by their occupants.
But perhaps he could tell us how Rietvelds Schröder House in Utrecht, Le Corbusiers Villa Savoye in Paris, Dowsons Long Wall in Suffolk and Mies van der Rohes Farnsworth House in Illinois (to list but a few modernist solutions to housing) have failed? Such solutions should not be rejected because they were built for a wealthy bourgeois clientele. Rather, our aim should be to reject and destroy the system that makes them available for only a few. Turleys leftism confusingly conflates the two issues.
Commitment to function, which an aesthetic Mr Turley rejects in typical postmodern fashion, is a design-specific manifestation of a deeper commitment to rational planning and organisation. Given these are features we seek to establish in a communist society, it is surely inconsistent not to apply them to the built environment, the very concrete image such societies take. The postmodernist dictum that less is a bore is merely an aestheticisation of capitalist laissez faire - an economic and social system I assume Mr Turley otherwise rejects.
Women behind the wire
We have sent the following open letter to the chancellor and future prime minister, Gordon Brown:
We write to you from Yarls Wood immigration removal centre and hope that this letter finds you well. We write to you as grandmothers, mothers, sisters, daughters, friends and supporters of your campaigns. We are victims of torture, rape and ill-treatment from our countries, having been forced by circumstances to flee our countries of origin in search of safety and protection.
We are detained in this detention camp as asylum-seekers and over-stayers and have gone or are going through the immigration processes with no hope of success because of the laid-down bureaucratic laws. Most of us do not have solicitors, thereby making it very difficult to have legal representation, which results in the failure to pass proper decisions in cases where there is merit. The legal aid case workers provided can only take up cases to a certain level, they say because of funding difficulties, and most of us are left to fend for ourselves with no clue as to the legal jargon and procedures to be followed.
Most of the cases are also on a fast track basis, which makes it very difficult for willing solicitors to take up cases due to the limited time involved. It is very inappropriate to consider a case and pass a fair judgement within 24 hours. This suggests that the decision is already predetermined. The home office has assured the public that each case will be dealt with on a one-to-one basis, but this is not the case. Clearly, they have a certain number of people, circumstances notwithstanding, to deport by a certain period.
The women here have been in this country for periods ranging between three and 14 years. Some have families, including parents, husbands and children, who are forcibly separated. We have also fostered close relationships with our communities and church members and those who had no-one to call friends now have many friends.
Some of us had been reporting, signing on, on a weekly and/or monthly basis for years. Yes, we concede that others were working subversively, due to the restriction placed on asylum-seekers from working and the fear of being forcibly returned to their countries, but nevertheless they have been working and paying their taxes dutifully.
Some have served their sentences for working with false papers, but have not been involved in any other crime. Our crime is trying to survive by working hard, not by stealing, fraud or claiming benefits. When our fast-tracked cases are dismissed within a 24-hour period, we are served with deportation/removal orders and are advised this will be imminent. Unfortunately, this is not the case because some of the women have been awaiting travel documents for periods ranging from one month to two years.
Our psychological, mental and physical torture continues. Suicide attempts are many, and there is physical deterioration because of the bare healthcare facilities provided. We have no proper dental care and those with diabetes, high blood pressure, anaemia, etc do not have proper diets. Pregnant women have lost their babies. The suffering is endless.
Yes, we might have been judged as criminals for trying to live a more secure life, by working as hard as we possibly can. But doesnt the sentence end? Should we continue to be punished? When it comes to removing us, we are beaten and bundled into the plane in the most inhumane manner you can imagine.
In light of the above petitions, we call upon your kind intervention and advocacy into our plight to grant us the safety and protection we are looking for in this country. We thank you most gratefully in anticipation of your urgent action.
Women behind the wire
Women behind the wire
It makes me laugh that the whole 28-odd of you still dribble on and produce a version of The Sun for the left to laugh at.
I mean, take a look at the article, CPB unity surge (May 10). Its shocking. You didnt take a look at the fact that thousands saw our broadcast (or the fact that, unlike your party, we can get a broadcast) or that for once everyone in Wales had a chance to vote communist. And that our party is growing. Im seeing it first hand. Not from any spin, but from a real paper, the Morning Star.
Your paper is nothing more than a gossip rag. The only things you do are talk about the internal politics of the real parties and make announcements on your website. Thats about the end of your reach. You dont contest elections and you have no real say among the left because they all see you as a drop in the ocean.
Face facts and stop deluding yourselves, please. Seriously, as long as we exist, the sect which is the CPGB will contain no more than 28 or so members and you will simply continue to waste paper via the Weekly Worker. Shame.
I have followed, on and off, the discussions on the Campaign for a Marxist Party, which I notice are becoming increasingly mired in accusations and heated exchanges that threaten to obscure the issues. I will therefore put my own views as simply as I can and with only minimal reference to the accumulated verbiage of the discussion so far.
For the sake of anyone else new to the discussion or trying to follow from the margins, I would challenge the main protagonists so far to make a fresh start by explaining their views at least as concisely as I have tried to do.
There seems to be a strand in the debate that views all the discussion as a surrogate for a discussion of fusion with the CPGB. If that is what is being sought, it should be explicit, and there would need to be a critical review of the whole record of the CPGB, not just its current stance on programme. Along with this, there is the broader appeal for unity of the left (sometimes also dressed up as Marxist).
There is no need for a party to be explicitly Marxist, but it is because of Marxism that we recognise the need for a party, and programme will reflect the conclusions of Marxist theory. We are not looking for believers, but for people who will change the world. Theoretical discussion will accompany every step, but is not an end in itself.
The world changes, not on a whim but in accordance with social forces. Marxism gives us the tools to analyse these forces, which hitherto have driven history outside the conscious control of humanity as a whole. As far as belief goes, we can say we believe that human reason is the hope for the future and that the working class has a special role to play in consciously shaping the future (all, of course, open to debate). The idea that the working class should be politically independent of other social forces is therefore paramount; not without allies, but conscious of its own separate interests and historic role, and not sacrificing these.
The programme is the series of steps needed to effect the transition. It should logically connect the day-to-day struggle for survival with the need for revolution, and not lapse into a minimum-maximum trap. Trotskys 1938 programme made the connection, but reflected a period when millions of workers had experience of struggle, and the idea of forming a factory committee would not have seemed so strange. We need to take account of the changes that have taken place within the working class and consider whether forms of organisation can be developed now that could also prefigure the way society could be run in future.
Perhaps the most important and most enduring of Trotskys arguments was that the crisis facing humanity boiled down to the crisis of leadership of the working class. The endless betrayals by Stalinism and reformism have left the working class politically disarmed, and the political vacuum where principled leadership ought to be is filled by all shades of nationalism, popular front campaigns and various forms of identity politics. The radical left has adapted to these as a substitute for building a workers movement.
The programme should include a position on the way society would be organised after the revolution. The transition to capitalism took place because commodity production developed over centuries in the womb of the old society and found new channels. Workers, having no property in the means of production have only organisation, which in turn reflects consciousness. If they have only trade unionism (and pretty diseased specimens at that), they can never rise above sectional claims over the terms of exploitation and will remain trapped in the wages system. It imposes a version of the minimum-maximum, split with maximum or long-term issues being left to the parliamentarians. The Socialist Partys Campaign for a New Workers Party implicitly accepts this and in seeking trade union affiliations is simply preparing the way for a Labour Party mark two.
When I hear calls for unity of all Marxists (defined to include the Communist Party of Britain and the Labour left), such as those reported in Phil Kents recent article, I wonder if the difference between a political movement and trade unionism is understood (Humpty Dumpty programmers, June 7). What most of the left have in common is that they confuse the working class with the bureaucratic shell of the trade union movement and even the Labour Party, and are all too readily corralled behind any figures from that milieu who make a few progressive noises.
How will the associated producers associate after the revolution? Is there an organisational form that advances the struggle now and prefigures the struggles that will continue after the revolution and the way production will be organised?
Workers need to organise politically and to be offered a clear idea of how future society can be organised. Not a centrally planned model, or rule by committees, and not just worker participation in an economy still geared to the market. How do we bring the forces of accumulation under rational control? Do we go flat out to maximise production and create material abundance or aim to produce the necessities of life in a shorter time, so freeing people from alienated labour?
We want to bring millions into the process of deciding these issues; otherwise we are back to the social democratic model of passively voting for representatives to make all the changes.
Above all, a programme must appear as a coherent whole, a world view, not just a shopping list of other peoples lost causes. Otherwise we are doomed to dissolve the programme into a series of alliances and single-issue campaigns that leave the putative workers movement tailing behind middle class protest groups and various other non-working class forces. I am very much for Lenins argument that a workers party is the tribune of the oppressed, opposing injustice and abuse from a working class standpoint, destined to lead the oppressed layers, not follow them. For socialism, or even democracy, to succeed, an organised working class must emerge as a conscious, independent factor in history.
Communism is not just a set of ideas some people would like to introduce, but is a social movement. The ideas and the actual activity of the working class need to be in step with each other. This means that at least a section of the working class struggling for its rights, for democratic and socialist demands, must be imbued with the ideas that foreshadow a new world. It follows that a central part of the activity of Marxists should be devoted to developing a culture of Marxism within the working class, as distinct from radical protests and militant reformism. The decay of the old leaderships provides opportunities to build on new forces.